Katherine Baicker appointed dean at Harris School of Public Policy

Katherine Baicker, a leading scholar in the economic analysis of health care policy, has been appointed the next dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

Baicker serves as the C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard University, holding appointments at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Kennedy School of Government. Her appointment as Harris dean will begin Aug. 15.

“Kate is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most thoughtful and visible leaders on health care policy,” wrote President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier in announcing Baicker’s appointment. They added her “commitment to high academic standards combined with policy impact, her academic and policy leadership experience and achievements, and her belief in the great future potential of Harris” would make her an ideal leader for the public policy school.

Baicker’s experience in policy leadership includes serving as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2005 to 2007, for which she played a leading role in the development of health policy, and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which provides analysis and policy advice to Congress. She has been on the faculty at Harvard since 2007, and served as chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard’s Chan School from 2014 to 2016.

“Bringing rigorous analysis to bear on pressing policy questions is more vital now than ever, and the exceptional scholarship and academic programs of Harris have positioned it as a rising leader in this crucial work,” Baicker said. “I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the enormously talented faculty, staff and students at Harris during this very exciting time for the school.”

Baicker’s research focuses on public and private health insurance, including examining its distribution and effectiveness. Her scholarship spans Medicaid, health insurance finance and the effect of health care reforms, particularly on usage and quality of care. She is one of the principal investigators of the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, a landmark policy study of the effect of expanding public health insurance on health care use, health outcomes, financial strain and the well-being of low-income adults.

Her research has been published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Quarterly Journal of Economics. She was elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine in 2011 and the National Academy of Social Insurance in 2007, and she serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Health Economics, the American Journal of Health Economics and Health Affairs. Baicker is a member of the Congressional Budget Office’s Panel of Health Advisers, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an affiliate of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Before joining Harvard, Baicker was on the faculties of the University of California, Los Angeles and Dartmouth College. She also served as a visiting assistant professor at Harris in 2003. Baicker received a PhD in economics from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University.

The appointment comes as Harris is building upon numerous recent successes, including the appointment of prominent new faculty members such as University Professor James Robinson, the Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies; and distinguished senior fellows such as Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education. In 2015, the University launched The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts and The Pearson Global Forum, both housed at Harris, with Robinson serving as the inaugural faculty director of The Pearson Institute. The initiative was established with a landmark $100 million gift to the University from The Thomas L. Pearson and The Pearson Family Members Foundation.

Baicker’s appointment follows an international search, informed by a faculty committee co-chaired by Harris faculty members Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, the Sydney Stein Professor, and Prof. Dan Black. 

In their message announcing Baicker’s appointment, Zimmer and Diermeier thanked Kerwin Charles, the Edwin and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, who is serving as interim dean of Harris for the 2016-2017 academic year. They noted his work on recruiting leading faculty to Harris and improving alumni engagement and diversity and inclusion. Diermeier served as dean of Harris before being appointed provost last year.